tv Book Discussion on Enter Helen CSPAN August 13, 2016 11:00pm-12:01am EDT
with phone calls. and then i think when you, the longer that you're doing it and you realize there are better ways to go about this, maybe more calculating ways to even go about this, you just, you grow in it. and i think that that's what some of these people are experiencing. so as a result of that, you know, i give them grace because i've been given grace. and there are a lot of people out there who have every reason in the world to hate me because of some of the things i led against them eight years ago, and yet they don't. so i think that comes into it. >> host: many conservatives, traditional, hard-core conservatives will agree with a lot of the content of "flyover nation." in a 20-second sales pitch, why should someone who might be what you sort of disdain as a coastal elite lefty who doesn't get it, why should they buy and read the book? >> guest: if they want to win an election or win a debate, they need to get this debate so they
understand the people they need to convince, what issues these people prize and why they feel the way they do about these issues and how you can talk to these people without condescending to these individuals. and you can also find some common ground, because i do get into that in the book. there's a lot of common ground in this book that they might actually have, and you can build a lot of stuff off of common ground. that's not compromise, that's actually building a coalition. that's why they need this book. >> host: deign in loesch, thank you so much. >> guest: thank you guys so much. i appreciate it. >> c-span, created by america's cable television companies and brought to you as a public service by your cable or satellite provider. [inaudible conversations]
>> hey. all right. hello, everybody. thanks for your patience. welcome to powerhouse. let's give a round of applause to brooke hauser. [applause] just so you guys know, we've got plenty of books up at our register, and we'd really appreciate if after the program you grab one from us, because it helps us do great events like this one for you guys. a little more about our author
as well as our two moderators. brooke hauser has written for "the new york times," los angeles times, marie claire and others. she's the author of an american library association's 2012 alex award. our first moderator is jezebel.com founder anna holmes. she's written and edited for numerous publications including "the new york times," washington post, "newsweek," the new yorker online and others. she's also the editor of two books including the book of jezebel which we've got up at our register as well, and she works as a columnist for "the new york times" book review. our last moderator, rachel, is a writer, reporter and editor. her long form work has appeared in the new yorker, new york times, gw, "wall street journal" magazine and npr. her first nonfiction book is forthcoming from random house,
and she's also the founder of women's lives club. so please welcome our speakers. thanks. [applause] >> i just wanted to thank everybody for being here, and we're calling this a book launch and a book party but, of course, book came out a few weeks ago. we pushed it back a little bit -- the party, not the book, that is -- because i had a baby. [laughter] so i'm still, this is one of my first public appearances, and i'm kind of still in mom mold, and i had an anxiety the dream last night where i had to make all of you eggs, and you didn't want to eat it. [laughter] anyway, we have wine, and i hope that you partake after this talk. on to you. >> well, congratulations. >> thanks. >> for your baby and your book baby. so i guess i'm going to be moderating this discussion between brooke and anna about
helen gurley brown and the past and future of women's magazines. so i wanted to just start by asking you about helen gurley brown. why her, and maybe give us all a little bit of context about how you came to the material. >> okay. well, it was in 2012, in august. i was looking for a book idea, and i'm kind of back to doing the same thing again right now, actually. i've been reading the to bits of the new york times -- the obits of the new york times. [laughter] i find it's one of the best ways, and in particular, marguerite fox of "the new york times" writes a killer obit. [laughter] and i think that they just made a film about the obit section at the times. i was reading about helen gurley brown, and she just sounded like such a fascinating character. she died in august of 20 the,
and her life -- 2012, and her life was so colorful. it began in arkansas, ended in new york, in a way ended in arkansas again because she is buried there. but i just thought, you know -- that might be my computer skypeing. i have no idea. anyway, it was a fascinating story, and she was a great character, and i thought why don't i know more about her or? you know, right after college i started working at premiere magazine which covers film, but i've written a lot for women's magazines, and i thought if anyone should know about helen gurley brown, it should be me. and, you know, i didn't understand why i hadn't heard more of her. i understood her as this older woman who people poked fun of later in her life. >> yeah. and had you been a longtime reader of cosmopolitan? >> yes. [laughter] i mean, no, not really. i do enjoy it now. and the first thing -- well, i
had just had my son at the time, and he was a few months old when i started going to the smith archives and digging through old issues of cosmo from the '60 and '70s, and it was so much fun. i mean, i could just spend years. i mean, it's really a good time if you have a lot of extra time on your hands. [laughter] and, in fact, we have a couple of original, well, barbara is an original staffer of helen's who was there in 1965, and eileen, too, worked as cosmo -- worked as cosmo more in the '70s. yeah. so it was, you know, barbara -- i'm so glad she's here. she was the first person -- [inaudible] 1965 cosmo because that was helen's first year, and i looked at the masthead, and i started trying to track down people, doing detective work. and a lot of people are not around anymore, or they've changed their names. one lady is like in, where is
she, denmark or -- yeah. [laughter] denmark, right. and changed her name. so eventually i found barbara, and she really connected me to a ton of people, and that's how i made my inroads. >> i want to bring anna into the discussion in one more second, but i had one more question about where you started the book. you, or sort of how you structured it, because i know you said to me that your editors had pushed you to give context to helen's life and to bring in the cultural women's movements in the '60s and '70s and talk about all the things that were going on around her, and i wanted to hear about the evolution of those decision and the framing for her life that you chose. >> right. well, so now my editor is hannah wood, over there. but my first editor, claire want el, she was extremely helpful. she read book, and she said, well, this is great, helen's story's fascinating, but you want men to realize this, if you
want everybody to read this, you know, think about expanding the focus a little bit. and, you know, i thought that was a good idea. she said, you know, helen is really a good example of someone tapping into is the zeitgeist, you know? and it would be helpful to show the era around her that she was part of and helped to define. and i did a few drafts trying to accomplish that. it was not easy because i didn't want live through the '60s or 'to 70s. my first attempt, she was very blunt. she said this reads like the flash cards of the '60s. i covered vietnam, i covered the assassinations. and then i went back and thought, well, what were helen gurley brown's '60s like? they were different. it was more about the linda he claire affair. she was, you know, a woman who was basically kicked out of barnard for living with her boyfriend on campus. and the career girl murders. i found a different kind of
'60s to write about that was really more in line with her own story and interests. so that was helpful, yeah. >> yeah. so, anna, you founded jezebel which at least in the beginning seemed to be focused on speaking truth to power in the world of women's magazines. i want to have you sort of define the mission and talk about what your experience of helen gurley brown was when you came into that project and if you have a big opinion about her work. >> well, okay. if i described it now, it would be sort of web site or women's media outlet that i didn't think existed at time, and it was a direct provocation against -- towards women's magazines as they existed then. and they were pretty uniformly horrible. i think a lot of them have gotten better. my understanding of helen gurley
brown was, you know, i had heard of her. i think i first heard of her when i was a teenager. i didn't subscribe or read cosmo. it felt way too old for me as a 15-year-old and also scandalous because there was a lot of cover lines about sex which made me a bit uncomfortable. [laughter] and i read other magazines, but i was aware of her; and i was aware she was a famous editor, longtime editor of cosmo. i think by the time i started paying attention to cosmo, she was -- the editor was bonnie fuller who, i believe, came right after helen left. >> yes. >> and bonnie changed it in a way, i think it became even more, you know, provocative and i would say maybe salacious, and maybe it was dumbed down a little bit more. i didn't have any interest in it then as a reader much as well. it's funny, though, because when
we -- in 2007 when we were spending four months, some staffers and i, trying to think about how we were going to, what we were going to put in the site, jezebel, we went to an old magazine purveyor. i wouldn't call it a store. it was a guy who had a space, i think, on east 10th between third and fourth avenues, maybe it was east 11th, and he had a lot of old magazines that he would sell. we decided to get a pile of old cosmos because we were going to look through them as way of just informing ourselves about the issues that had come out in the '60s, '70s and '80s, but also maybe for material to talk about on the site. and you're right, they were really, really, really fun to go through. [laughter] i think i ended up purchasing about five of them because they were quite expensive, but they had a sort of energy that, again, as a teen, as a young teen i found intimidating, but then i appreciated as a then 30-something.
but what i knew about helen gurley brown was that she was a longtime editor, that she was a force of nature, that she was -- her physique was often discussed -- [laughter] because she was a very small woman. and that her love for her husband was all-encompassing. which might be an unfair characterization. but enduring and one of the most important things in her life. i think that that came through in some of the content on the site -- or, excuse me, the site -- [laughter] speaking digitally. in the magazine. and, you know, i had issues with making that the primary concern of young women or even older women, whether or not they have a relationship. but she was definitely -- [inaudible] and i think her approach toward unmarried women, sex was -- and i don't know if i'd use the word revolutionary, but important in terms of normalizing that. >> yeah.
and i wanted to ask you about her partner, her husband, david. i know that you had said recently -- and i looked this up -- that the daily mail had said it was the kind of bombshell that she had come 0u7 up with the idea of sex and the single girl and, you know, sort of tried to take away some of helen's -- [inaudible] in that project. and you said it didn't matter that it was his idea and he had a lot of ideation behind cosmo and how you look at her partnership with -- [inaudible] i wanted you to speak on what you discovered. >> well, what i kind of always say is that, you know, he was a very famous hollywood producer, and she was his biggest production of all time. i mean, he did "jaws," you know? but she was the real success story. and actually bob shakes can speak to that, a producer who was friends with them both. we have some people, also
helen's cousin, lou, who's in the book, a big character in the book. some people who really knew her very well. and i think, you know, that in some ways they had a very modern marriage -- >> [inaudible] >> i think they had a very modern marriage in a lot of ways, especially in 1962 when sex and the single girl came out. david had been married twice before, and he credited the kind of dissolution of one of his marriages to the fact that his ex-wife had stopped working to move to -- she had worked at a magazine, i think glamour, ladies' home journal, one of the magazines in new york city, and when she moved to l.a., she stopped working. and he credited the demise of their marriage to the fact that she had given up her career, and she wasn't happy staying at home. so he said something like if you want to love a woman or you want to see a woman happy, let her work. or something like that. so he fully supported her career. she was already a very
successful ad woman by time they met. but it's true, you know? sex and the single girl was his idea, but she's the one who owned it and made it hers and wrote it, but he edited it. and then when she, you know, started thinking about cosmo in 1965 -- and that was basically just a book, a magazine version of sex and the single girl and still is in a lot of ways -- he had been a longtime managing editor at cosmopolitan. so he was the one who helped her get there too. and my question too was i don't know if that matters. i mean, her -- everybody who knows helen gurley brown knows that she believed in using men to get what you want. and she did. she used her own husband. and you know what? he used her too. i mean, for a long time he was known as mr. helen gurley brown because sex and the single girl was a huge success long before he made it big in hollywood as a producer. >> yeah. this is a question for you both. so when sex and the single girl
came out, it was a big hit and sort of hit a cultural moment, and it seems like we are living through another cultural moment of talking about single women. there are a lot of books that have emerged in the last year or two about single women. there's rebecca traister's all the single ladies -- [inaudible] and there are all these sort of explorations of what it means to be a single woman in the modern day. i know both of you have written about this also over the years, and i'm wondering why you think we're at another moment of examining the phenomenon of the single girl. [laughter] >> should i take this one? that's a great question that i don't really know the answer to. i mean, why are we in a moment of -- yeah. i'm not sure because i'm not -- i agree that we're in a moment, but maybe it's a moment in terms of book publishing. i think that, you know, you
might argue that there are moments in television and movies and have been more some time, although most television and movies that feature a single woman, she usually ends up with a man. even sex and the city after all those years. >> yeah. >> i think it's, i mean, i assume it's just demographics. and in a certain, you know, hunger by the part of authors and editors who buy their books to talk about what it's like to be single and to be okay with being single as opposed to it being a weigh station to marriage. and i think, you know, when i think of cosmo mostly older issues of cosmo from the '60s and '70s, i don't know any -- i would be curious to hear a what you think, but it seemed to me a lot of the stories i recalled see anything the older issues celebrated being single
as not as explicitly as a point on a timeline before you became married or partnered, whereas i do think in the past ten years, maybe even twenty, a lot of women's magazines, they would celebrate female singlehood, but it was -- the underlying message was you have to get a man. there was no space for gay relationships. and also once you had a man, then you had to worry that you were going to lose him. so they would give you tips on -- >> how to keep a man, yeah. >> usually that would involve sex. [laughter] so, or different types of sex. [laughter] anyway, but, yeah. i mean, do you think that that's fair? that the cosmo of the '60s, of helen's era was -- >> yeah. i would say she encouraged women to be very adventurous and date lots of men and sleep with lots of men, sure.
on the way to getting married. and maybe that's the difference between then and now, is i think some of the books that have come out recently like all the single ladies and, certainly, spinster celebrate singledom for what it is, not something as like a detour or pit stop on the way to, you know, walking down the aisle. that said though, you know, i think helen also understood that not every woman wanted to get married. and so while she gave lots of man-hunting tips, she also -- i think she understood that some women wanted to stay single for life, and, you know, she encouraged them. you know, so much of what people remember about her has to do with sex and singledom and dating. but when i read sex and the single girl for the first time -- which was recently in 2012 -- the sex is hardly shocking, you know? now that girls has been on the air and sex and the city, it's like, please, nothing in that
book is shocking anymore. except there's still some valuable advice. and most of it, i would say, has to do with getting ahead in your career and budgeting your money. so that's really what i took from it, was how practical the advice was and also how clear it was to me that she was really saying here's a step-by-step guide on how to become an individual. that was it. and i still read it that way. and i was not the target, you know, demographic. i read it on the back of my jogging stroller, you know? i was already in my 30s, you know? but it still had a lot of relevance, a lot of good advice in that way. so, yeah, i think it's fair to say that cosmo at the time absolutely encouraged women, you know, to find their mate and get married. but, you know, she gave some good and bad advice along the way. [laughter] >> and, i mean, obviously she
was running that magazine during the the dawn of the feminist movement, and you said that you think it's somewhat of a moot point when people ask you a question, was helen gurley brown a feminist, something now people seem to ask every woman that they sit down with that's a celebrity. >> yeah. >> you know, was she a feminist. and, you know, do you have a sort of -- [inaudible] that you can respond to that question? >> yes. i've gotten a little bit better, because the first person who really asked, i think it was julia -- [inaudible] if i say her name right, from "vogue." i was like, you know, the reason i had such a hard time answering it was because helen didn't call herself a feminist until she was much older. and when she was younger and she was kind of, like, learning about the women's movement in 1968, '69, she would write in her editor's column step into my parlor, oh, so i met these
women's libbers and, man, what a bunch of nut burgers they are. [laughter] and nut burger is kind of related to the mouse burger, but, you know, self-explanatory. but then a couple years or four years, actually -- no. 1968-1969, soon after she wrote that about all women's libbers are a bunch of nut burgers, she published an excerpt of sexual politics in cosmo which was really interesting. i actually e-mailed kate about it, and she didn't even remember it being in cosmo because it's so very unlikely. but i would say that -- i still wouldn't call helen gurley brown a feminist. i would say that -- because she didn't call herself that. so it's kind of weird to retroare actively apply a label like that -- retroactively apply a label like that. i would say she essentially believed in what feminism is, in equal rights for women and men. but she was certainly an outcast of the movement. she didn't have that many
friends within the movement. >> yeah. and outside of it too, i mean, gloria steinem was quite critical of her. she also said that helen was one of the first people she put sex in the pages of a magging zien, a mainstream women's magazine x that was something. and i wanted to ask you as someone who spent so much time thinking about women's magazines and what they can do if you think that glossy women's magazines can be vehicles to teach women about feminism, especially sort of as they evolve. or if historically you just think they, you know, they haven't been the greatest carriers of that message. >> when you say as they evolve, you mean as women evolve or magazines? >> magazines. >> yeah, i think they can. i think that my interest in magazines when i was in my teens was in part because i was reading magazines that i felt were maybe not explicitly
feminist, but in some cases they were. whether it was my mother's copies of ms.-- and maybe that's not fair the call a women's magazine, but let's talk about more commercial issues, you know, titles like sassy or glamour which i say i was reading glamour maybe in the mid '80s. it felt very progressive. and then it felt regress i have as i got older -- regressive as i got older because bonnie fuller who ran cosmo turned into a cosmo clone in a way. actually that's when i worked at glamour. yeah, i shul feel that way -- i absolutely feel that way. again, it isn't as though magazines didn't talk about relationships as something that were important in women's lives or fashion. they did. but they just didn't seem to put the same sort of weight on it. and, you know, it wasn't like i discovered feminism through sassy, i discovered feminism
through my mother talking about it all the time and related issues. [laughter] but those magazines felt like they were in alignment with the way i was raised and what i cared about and what i thought i should care about. i think it's harder now because i think a lot of young women are learning about gender politics on the internet, not in magazinings. magazines have the real struggle of trying to be relevant when they come out once a month and when everything seems to pass them by. and i wouldn't, you know, i don't envy magazine editors for having really hard task of trying to remain in the conversation when there's this really vie p brant conversation -- vibrant conversation that's happening every single second of every single day on the internet especially about gender politics. and i think that's where young women are now becoming politicized. more so than magazines. that said, you know, i'm also living in a bubble. i live in new york. i talk to women who are similar in age and background to me who
live in new york. i'm not, you know, it's very possible that something like cosmo today or glamour or any other women's magazine is affecting the outlook and the ideas of, you know, a young woman who isn't in the middle of the media. although most people have internet connections, i would say. but still, it's very possible that magazines are having more of an effect than i think they are, but the reason that i found magazines, women's magazines so frustrating for so long was because they felt like the only outlet or the only sort of media that women had to turn toward in terms of learning how to be themselves or what it meant to be an adult. and a lot of times i felt they were being really ill-served by those magazines and the way -- >> which is why it's so great that jezebel exists, you know? what i was saying was i write a
lot for women's magazines, and often i write celebrity profiles where you do kind of have to is ask the star of the moment, do you consider yourself a feminist? you know, it's a question that pisses a lot of people off. sometimes you get great answers out of it. i think if jezebel had existed when cosmo was in helen gurley brown's heyday, she would have gotten a lot of shit, because she made stuff up. she really, really did. she fabricated diets. [laughter] eileen, you know -- [laughter] i think eileen may have authored one called the egg and wine -- hard-boiled egg diet. >> [inaudible] >> the hard-boiled egg diet. >> [inaudible] >> yeah. [laughter] and, you know, people wrote fake let ors to the'd -- letters to the editor. in fact, when i was doing some of my detective work trying to track down one of the women called the first cover girl, she called her a big, fat cow idiot
sexpot. i found her name, and i read her the letter, and she said, yeah, yeah, i sent that letter, but i didn't write that line. and i didn't want write that line -- oh, but i wrote that line. basically, she wrote -- and barbara can speak to that too, because shed admitted the letters -- shed admitted the letters to the editor. >> it's tough because they had to put an issue out once a month and had been doing so for decades. and i guess, you know, you become accustomed to what works, and you want to keep recreating it. i'm not excusing it. but, you know, there were stories created at the magazines that i worked at that went backwards which is to say the editor-in-chief thought of a cool cover line and then asked for a story to be written around it. >> right. >> some of those stories i had
to execute myself. i think the most memorable one was what's your secret sexual personality. [laughter] she decided that was a good cover line, and i had to think of a story, you know, 1200 words -- [laughter] that would accompany that story. so it wasn't just helen, you know? and i don't know about letters to the editor, but i do know that a lot of stuff was massaged. if you ever read quotes in women's magazines and they sounded a little too perfect or smooth or peppy with exclamation points, that's because they were tweaked. >> right. >> i'm not saying that the sentences were completely made up, but, like, they were tweaked in a way to make, to create attention or humor. >> right. >> yeah. i was thinking, like, the list of sexual positions in cosmo, they were always like kyle 24 loves this one. [laughter]
but i wanted to ask you sort of a quandary when writing a biography. it's going to sound like one of these questions they pose to you in the column, "the new york times." but, you know, you didn't always love helen when researching her. i mean, there were moments when she frustrated you. there were moments when she fabricated things, and you had to fact check those and realized, oh, my gosh, that wasn't true. i mean, as a person who's a journalist and comes to a biographical subject, do you feel an obligation to like your subject? to take your subject to task? to approach with a kind of, you know, skeptical eye? >> well, definitely skeptical with helen. you know, i found that everything she said or wrote i had to kind of wonder about, take with a grain of salt. and that actually made me just completely fascinated by her. and, you know, when she was kind of acting naughty, i guess you
could say, like lying and fabricating, i kind of in a weird way -- i won't say i admired that, but, you know, it's fun to write about. it was really fun -- she was a very fun person to write about. i didn't always like her because, you know, well, if you read the book, you'll see, you know? there were times when, there were times when he kind of cast her family in a light that was less than flattering, and now having met some of her family members, i think that it's given me a new perception of what that actually kneels like. so from the d feels like. so from the start with sex and the single girl, she really portrayed her family as a bunch of backwoods hillbillies from arkansas. and when i met with her cowz to sin lou and, you know, looked through those family album, and we spent three days talking x i ate lou's biscuits and jam which are incredible, you know? [laughter] we really had a nice long talk, and it was really interesting to discover, well, helen's father
was a lawyer and was planning on running for political office when he was killed in this elevator accident. her mother had been a schoolteacher and was, you know, very educated for a woman of her time living where she did, in arkansas, and went to college for a year. and she grew up middle class in little rock even though it always says, you know, she was, like, dirt poor and all this stuff. so i found all of that to be really, really interesting and absolutely important to fact check. you know? where she came from and -- >> yeah. >> her version of it. >> yeah i think there's never an obligation to like your summit. did you find yourself liking her more than you thought ?uld. >> i loved her. you know, i loved her but i also had problems with, you know, she also -- there were things, you know, she was very, very rich at the end of her life, and there were things she could have done to make some relatives, you know, her mother and sister's
lives easier, for instance. so those were kind of moral questions, you know, that did kind of dampen my enthusiasm for her at times. but her complexity, and, you know, she's very famous for being very stingy with money. and that kind of puzzled me too because she really was so wealthy. she shivved through the depression, and -- she lived through the depression, and she had a lot of issues. she saw a lot of psychoanalysts throughout her life, and she was a very flawed person. again, that just makes her more interesting to write about. i never met her, so i don't know what i would have thought had i gotten to know her in real life. but i sure have read every scrap of paper she ever wrote on that has been saved. you know, it's a really weird way to get to know somebody. >> yeah. and, i mean, despite the complicated feelings, i know her entry in the book of jezebel is 100% complimentary --
>> i wouldn't say -- >> it says something like she could have been a great feminist hero if she didn't do so much to fuck women up. [laughter] that was a diss. >> [inaudible] what'd you appreciate about her, about her legacy? >> what i appreciate about -- hmm. well, just that i appreciate that she was tenacious. i don't know that, like, i respect the let's use men to get ahead stuff, but i also wasn't alive at that time. and, you know, a lot of women who have achieved a certain amount of power have had to go through the gauntlet, and, you know, they live in a very patriarchal society. it was my friend rebecca that wrote one of the single women books you mentioned. she talks about hillary clinton and how it's meaningful that hillary clinton -- it's meaningful that the woman who might be our first female
president was married to a powerful man. which is not to say that's why she became powerful, but that there's -- being attached to a powerful man does open certain doors in a way that it might not if you were solo. i admire helen's tenacity. i don't know that i agree with some of her opinions on how to achieve power, but, you know, one thing that, one thing that bothers me about her -- and, again, i don't know how fair this is because it was the case with the whole era, but if you look at old issues of cosmo and even more recent issues, even from the '80s and '90s and the '00s, they didn't really give a sense that american women were diverse. and, i mean, in terms of ethnic diversity, perhaps they weren't as diverse in 1968 as they are now. it's something that, you know,
occurred to me when i was hooking at old issues -- looking at old issues of cosmo, that it did seem to be speaking to a very narrow slice of american womanhood, you know, which was to say that probably middle class, highly educated, caucasian. and, you know, that was one of my frustrations with women's magazines that i worked for and that i read in my 20s and 30s and was part of the reason why i started the site jezebel, was because i really felt that i could walk down the street in new york and see a whole glorious type of womanhood in terms of ages and ethnic backgrounds and economic situations, and it was not being reflected in women's media. and it felt like we were living in the 20th century when we were in the 31st. -- 21st. so that's one thing that frustrated me about her and why
i have a little bit of pause. i don't think she really addressed economic or racial are issues in the magazine at a time when there was a lot of stuff going on in the american political m and -- >> well, for sure. i mean, if you -- like, one of the more fascinating avenues that i went down when writing this book was comparing cosmo from the late '60s to an issue of i magazine which was a hearst title that no one really remembers anymore. it was all rock music, it was kind of like cosmo meets rolling stone, and helen was the supervising editor of that. and it was just such a clash between the editor who ran i magazine and helen. and absolutely, to go through cosmo from the '60s, you know, there was really no mention of martin luther king or kennedy or -- unless it was talking about how good looking it was. [laughter] you know in the titles, headlines remembered from that
era were one of my favorites was the undiscovered joys of having a chinese lover, you know? [laughter] as people were being -- i don't know. it was so out of touch and really, really crazily out of touch. but she wasn't, you know, her target reader was really kind of illustrated in contrast, for instance, to ms. magazine which came around later. her target reader was white, but a single, small town, like, working class girl from, you know, the boondocks, basically. and as eileen and some other people who worked at cosmo in the 'to 70s told me, you know, the women and men who actually worked at cosmo were the college-educated, sometimes graduate school-educated, new york sophisticates who were kind of filtering their knowledge down to these, you know, like stewardesses from, you know,
cincinnati or whatever. and this was the girl who didn't know what to do with her dessert fork and who didn't know how to tie a tie. and so that was really, like, helen's girl. and she always said that was herself, that she was talking to herself like 20, 30, or later in her career 70 years younger. i don't know if i buy that either because she was, obviously, somewhat sophisticated, you know, to achieve this level of success. but, you know, she really created kind of sipmatic log live -- cinematic log line for herself which was from hill billy to hollywood, and everyone still buys it. just not true. >> [inaudible] go for it. >> the dessert fork. it reminds me like a lot of why i have a thing against women's magazines, editors i think sometimes create or make things important that don't actually -- aren't really that important. i don't think it's that important -- >> i don't even really know that
i've ever held one before. >> yes. [laughter] maybe i'm wrong, but i doubt it was that important to know how to tie a tie. i think, you know, men -- >> i also don't know how to tie a tie. [laughter] >> right. so, like, part of why i think women's magazines become problematic is because the editors, men start privileging certain things or communicating to readers that they should know this, that or the other and that if you don't, then you're somehow less than. there was a very famous cover line in glamour before i got there, right before i got there, that i believed caught some controversy, and i guess some retailers wanted to coffer up the magazine with brown paper. the cover line was -- i know we're on c-span -- but it was what he thinks of your orgasm face. [laughter] and this was the, like, i think a lot of women, probably the first time they had realized it was something they had to worry about. [laughter] so this is really where i feel -- [inaudible] a lot of damage because they
would, you know, invent problems that you didn't know you had. try and solve them, but you're left with the problem. >> just today i was looking at cosmo online in the cab over here, actually, and one of the stories was -- i think it was something like the wrong way you're washing your hair, you know? [laughter] and that's a helen kind of story because she used the word dumb a lot. your dumb hair and what to do antibiotic, you know? meanwhile, people were being killed in vietnam. so it was in some ways a real escape, and i think that magazines are still intended to be an escape. and actually cosmo today, for every fluffy article they do, they do run some more serious, investigative pieces. they did a great package on birth control and contraception, you know, that won a big national magazine award, i believe. you know, it's just that perfect cocktail. like, that's, to me, when i think of women's magazines, i this -- i think of that perfect
cocktail. there has to be sex, sex, sex, but there also has to be stuff about your career, working girls. gosh, one of my favorite parts about looking at the old cosmos was finding gloria steinem in a cosmo from 1968, and helen somehow convinced her to oppose in the spread about sexy, like, seductive brunettes starting with cleopatra and then jackie o.. and i was looking through this coz me, and -- cosmo, and i didn't know gloria was going to be in it, and here she is in a purple rom per dress -- she's wonderful, so i don't want to say too much. it was a low cut thing, her hair was wild, she had a serpent around her arm. i interviewed her and asked her what in the world was that about, and she was sitting on the lap of a famous tv actor at the time. >> wow. >> yeah, very -- [laughter] she said, well, i think that was
the case in which i was a mouse burger. she said i should have walked away when i saw what they wanted me to wear, but, you know, i was young, and i didn't have the script yet, and i didn't know what to say, and i just sat for that photo and, boy, did i regret it. the same year she was campaigning and had this political career. and i interviewed the photographer, and he like 50 years later feels absolutely horrible about it. [laughter] >> well, and i think that that is sort of a metaphor for something that you'd said which is that helen gurley brown didn't totally -- [inaudible] she slipped it in though. >> right. >> there was next to it an article about making the perfect cocktail or holding the dessert fork and then there's how to find an abortion provider. they got slipped in or marketed or glamorized. gloria steinem, here's the founder of ms. magazine, sort of -- [inaudible] in a romper.
and, you know, we're seeing that now. i think andy -- [inaudible] came out with a book about marketing of feminism, contemporary feminism, how empowerment has become more of a buzzword than a radical idea, and i'm wondering your thoughts on whether or not you think women's magazines can continue to kind of put that forward. [inaudible] >> definitely. i mean, i've definitely -- i don't know if i would say been guilty of it, because i don't know if i think it's a bad thing. i'm still kind of like the jury's out if a good thing or a bad thing to bring it up with an actress, do you consider yourself a feminist. at a certain point, magazine editors want you to hit. i think it's great. you know, there are a lot of young women who say, no, i'm not a feminist and, clearly, they have no idea what it means. i don't think it's a bad thing to have people like chloe grace
moretz saying, yeah, i'm a feminist, and here's why. i asked her that when she was 17 or 18, and i think it's important for young women to hear their idols say, yeah, of course i'm a feminist. i have mixed feelings about the marketing of poem nhl. there's yucky stuff about it but also some good stuff about it. >> yeah. i mean, i think my last question to both of you before we take audience questions is with regards to women's magazines, keeping in mind the legacy that helen gurley brown -- [inaudible] where do you think the future is for women's magazines? what would you like to see them become? i know there's all these new initiatives, there's e-newsletters, there's rookie, all these great magazines that have popped up in the last decade including jezebel that have allowed it to happen, a modern mission, but do you think there's somewhere further they could go, and where would you like to see that be? >> [inaudible] >> okay. i think what's so cool about jezebel is that it has been this
launching pad for really incredible writers and editors. you did stuff in the book of jezebel, right? >> uh-huh. >> and, you know, i mean -- i don't, i've never said her name out how old, so i'm not sure if i'm pronouncing it -- >> [inaudible] >> also the editor of lenny. i mean, the list goes on and on. the people who have come from jezebel are, you know, pretty incredible. but the other thing is they're not all writing for women's magazines or women's media and included, you know? you're at "the new york times." i think there's something to be said for that too. maybe the future of women's magazines, well, it won't need to exist when everybody's equal. and maybe there's some truth to that in terms of women's magazines. well, maybe, you know, there won't be a need for women's magazines when men care more to read about women's issues too or when they're considered more important news, frankly. you know, i think it's great. i love lenny, you know, i think
is really cool, and i to read women's magazines, and there is a special audience out there for them which is women. but i like also idea that a lot of women are starting to write for, you know, dual audiences, men and women. everybody. >> yeah. i think a lot of it has to do with what editors are comfortable giving writers x a lot of editors are still stuck in the past where they think, okay, we're going to give the lifestyle story to a female writer, or women writers can't do the harder stuff. i mean, honestly, i have no idea where women's magazines are going to go, and i don't look at them. think i aged out of them, but also i spent so much time between 2007 and 2010 staring at them every single month and, like, picking them apart that i don't want to look at them anymore. [laughter] but personally i'm not that interested in reading women's web sites anymore. i think because, well, it's knotts that they're not
necessary -- it's not that they're not necessary, but i do think there's been a marked shift this the sort of content you find on general interest web sites or magazines that have to do with women's issues. they're not all kind of shunted off to the side. you see a lot of female require writers and reporters who came up writing for web sites or creating their own blogs and writing for their own blog withs, you know -- blogs, you know, who have been snapped up by legacy publications. i mean, cosmo has one who once ran a blog called feminist. she was a law school student. she was certainly not someone who came up in media. and that's really heartening. so ideally, maybe there won't be a need for women's magazines. that said, you know, wouldn't it be fascinating to have a magazine or a web site that was entirely staffed by women, but it wasn't about women? and in the same way you can look
at the mastheads of some magazines and they're mostly high ranking men at the top. but male is the default. a lot of the time, which is why a lot of women's fiction, fiction written by women gets described as women's fiction or chick lit. so what i'd like to see is that there's no need for women's magazines versus men's magazines. >> right. >> i don't know that that's going to happen. but i feel like there is, i feel like i'm starting to see integration of the sort of content that was previously on women's sites into traditional and even more recent digital brands. >> okay. i think i'm being given the sign it's time to take some questions from ad. >> especially -- from the audience. anyone with questions?
>> i just wanted to say rachel founded this book club i online called the women's live club which is very cool. it has 1300-plus members. >> [inaudible] >> yeah. >> [inaudible] >> can we give him a mic? >> yeah, i want to hear. >> thank you. your chant cers on that relationship -- chapters on that relationship, and i know them both very well, and also the revolution that you fashioned changed everything. they're spot on. i mean, they're beautiful chapters, and you really captured them. >> thank you. [laughter] thank you. so bob shanks started good morning america and is a big producer and was also friends with helen and david. and his wife was a wonderful photographer.
she provided a lot of the pictures for the book. thank you. >> yes, questions. >> hi. this was very -- [inaudible] i was inspired to write about your book, and when i pitched it on my web site, one of the many lovely millennials that i work with kind of patted me on the side and was like, oh, my god, i love cosmo. i worked for them, you know, she just went on and on and on, and i was like, oh, great, i'm very excited, i love the book. and then she had an interesting point which is somehow we talked about the web site. i think i -- [inaudible] oh, i came across it today, and it was from cosmo.com. and be she just completely dismissed it. she was, like, oh, no, the web site is so different from the mag zone. i love the magazine, i'm very disappointed in the web site.
and i work for digital media, and anna and brooke having both worked for magazines and web sites, i'd love to know your thoughts on how when you have magazines that have a really intense, loyal reader exphip you have these web sites that are bran be. ing off and doing different things, where do the two converge and where do they, you know, go out into their own doing interesting things? is that a good thing? is it a bad thing? speaking of, like, magazines that have both print and the digital side. like to hear this millennial say that she was so upset by what the web site was doing was shocking to me. [laughter] but anyway, i'd be interested to know what you thought about why that is a thing if it is a thing or why it could be good or bad. >> i think it's important for them to be really different or serve different functions actually. i mean, i'm definitely not as savvy in ding aal media as both
rachel and anna are, but i can speak from, like, the beginning of the digitizing, like, the stone ages which is when i worked at premiere magazine which folded after something like 25 years, i remember when they were trying to to transfer to premiere.com. boy, was that rough. that was rough. and i think the problem was because they were kind of trying to make web site like the magazine. and, you know, that was impossible because the magazine took -- it was such great reportage, and the stories even though they were about movies, they still took months to report, a lot of investigative work being done, a lot of great profiles and meanwhile the web site is saying, you know, it just wasn't as good x. it was not as well thought through. so now there's a lot of web sites that are extremely, you know, well thought through, and the content is excellent. but i think that they really almost have to exist on their own even if they are connected
to a print version like cosmo.com versus cosmo. what do you think? >> what did the young woman say a as to why he didn't like the website? >> i think -- [inaudible] >> yeah. well, maybe cosmo.com has to compete with, feels it has to compete more with women's web sites, and a lot of women's web sites have serious content on them. i'm surprised by that. i'm surprised to hear that. >> i'm surprised too. i mean, i think that -- i actually think that the younger generation -- [inaudible] i mean, i actually think it's really funny when, you know, people make such a big deal about whether or not you wrote
for the new yorker in print or the new yorker.com. like it's such a giant chasm -- >> it is. >> it is. [laughter] like, my words were put in ink, and yours were done on some sort of lcd screen -- [inaudible] >> right. >> so i think there is a crepe is city in terms of, first of all, how much you get paid writing for the web versus how much you get paid in print. incredibly different. a few web publications -- [inaudible] >> which one are those? [laughter] >> yeah. i think for me i feel like, you know, i don't read that much media in print anymore. i mean, i still subscribe to the sunday times, but, i mean, a lot of my favorite content to consume is online. and i feel like, you know, if
helen gurley brown were sill around, she'd probably -- still around, she'd probably love the web. >> oh, yeah. >> it's so fun, you can do so much with it. you can be interactive. interesting. >> i love the book, and i just wanted to know why did you start to write it. [laughter] >> i mean, it's not that interesting of an answer, i guess. you know, i just wanted a new book project -- [laughter] honestly. and i have a really wonderful agent, team, barry weissman and sasha alford. and, you know, we were looking for books for me. and, you know, when i read helen's obit in "the new york times"es and i e-mailed them about it and we kind of -- it
was a conversation, and we thought, oh, this sounds -- "mad men" was still on the air or about to go off, and we thought, oh, this sounds interesting. what about a story about helen gurley brown at the dawn -- it existed long before she did, but helen gurley brown's cosmo and instead of the ad agency, it's set in the world of women's magazines. and so, you know, that's how it started. as to why, i mean, i just -- i thought it would be a good story for me, and it was. i wanted to do something fun. actually, i have the answer now. it was -- [laughter] my first book is called "the new kids," and i had spent several years immersed in the lives of these teenagers, all of them were either immigrants or refugees from 50 countries all around the world. they're wonderful, it was a great experience, but i was really in their lives. like, i had a boyfriend for, like, 10, 11, 20 years, i don't know.
we didn't get married for a long time. i was putting off so many things because i was kind of in their lives. so by the time i went to write "enter helen" i wanted to be immersed in it but have my own life. i would like to have my own life back, please. [laughter] so that's kind of how that -- it was partly, you know, a great subject and then also partly practical. something i could do.